Management by walking is a style of management that favors barrier-free chance encounters and face-to-face interactions. Nowhere is this more effective than in brick-and-mortar retail where the only outcome that ultimately matters, the end result of every other initiative and program, is whether the customer experience in the store is conducive to sales. Are your customers responding to the store environment to actually make purchases? Are your in-store programs executed in time, in full, in all stores? Every retail executive wants to know this. Should you hire consultants, use surveys or buy research papers? You could (and probably do) but these methods are often too slow, too expensive or simply biased towards a particular vendor solution.
Readily available, inexpensive and highly effective.
There exists a time-tested solution that is readily available, inexpensive, very fast and highly effective. Walk the store! Successful retailers are almost always operations-focused and operations-focused retailers often encourage store walks. However, walking the store is not the privilege of the operations group. Whether you are a buyer, a merchandiser, human resources or involved in loss prevention, you will benefit from store walks. The same can be said about seniority. Store walks inspire and engage junior merchandisers and analysts, as they do C-level executives.
This post is not meant to preach to the choir, after all many seasoned retail professionals already know this. But it is perhaps worth repeating in an age of sometime overly complex solutions to a simple and common problem. If you work in retail and want to be inspired, validated and yes humbled, you can very effectively manage by walking the store.